The growing interconnection of transnational security challenges – especially in the current world when key players, such as the United States, are turning their back on multilateralism and promoting unilateralism – will increase the need for coordination among different actors to cope with common threats and challenges. Regarding these global security dynamics, interregionalism has being used to advance cooperation on regional and global security challenges. Juan Soriano presented these arguments in the article High expectations. Interregional agendas on global security challenges: East Asia, Europe, and Latin America, published in the current issue of RBPI (V. 62, n. 1 – 2019).
By analyzing three interregional dialogues, which comprise seventy-seven countries from East Asia, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), Soriano explores a set of empirical matters and proposes that the insights provided by studies on ‘security governance’ can help understand interregional security cooperation. Indeed, this articles offers an empirical analysis of the role which interregionalism could have as a possible stepping-stone to advance multilateral security cooperation. Juan Pablo Soriano was interviewed by Tiago Tasca, editorial assistant of RBPI, regarding their views on topics related to their research.
1) According to your argument about EU-CELAC relationship, “some analyses have indicated a certain sense of fatigue in the EU-CELAC relationship, and therefore the need to renew or relaunch it, taking into account sub-regional schemes, regional diversities, existing asymmetries, and the tensions and fragmentation that this multilevel interregionalism generates”. In your view, what are the main sources of this “sense of fatigue in the EU-CELAC relationship”? Is it possible to argue that these tensions, asymmetries and fragmentation in the LAC countries could be attributed to a lack of a common regional security agenda? Why?
From my point of view, this ‘sense of fatigue’ in the relationship between the European Union (EU) and Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries is related to different processes taking place in each region, in the interregional relationship, and in the broader international context.
Different processes have aligned in recent years to form a ‘perfect storm scenario’ which creates many obstacles for the EU-LAC interregional dialogue. For example, in recent years we have witnessed the emergence of many interconnected ‘strategic distractors’ in both regions. In the EU, just to name a few: Brexit, the growth of far-right populist parties, the rise of nationalism, constant instability in many neighboring countries, the so called ‘migrant and refugee crises,’ violent extremism and terrorism, economic stagnation, and crisis in the transatlantic relationship, among other matters. In the case of LAC, again just to name a few ‘strategic distractors’: a growing crisis of the regional institutional framework, important economic problems, changing political perspectives among different sub-regional blocs, the search for new extra-regional partners – especially in Asia-, rising violence linked to organized crime, widespread corruption, and all this in a context of a strong shift towards unilateral actions by the United States. Also, it is important to highlight that the sense of exhaustion and disappointment among many state and non-state actors includes the traditional bi-regional summits framework.
Without a doubt the EU-LAC relationship is still important for both sides of the Atlantic. There have been concrete advancements in specific areas with little visibility, such as the ones in the field of cooperation against transnational crime and initiatives in the security and judicial sector reform, for example. While global security challenges manifest with different intensity in both regions, I believe that EU and LAC countries could be very relevant actors – both acting in concert or within other interregional forums -, in the development of norms and practices regarding: transnational crime, drug and arms trafficking, human trafficking and people smuggling, natural disasters and the negative impact of climate change, and cyberspace challenges.
2) In the theoretical section of the article, you pointed out that “interregionalism may not be the dominant trend in world politics, nevertheless it is important to continue the study of its possible ‘systemic repercussions’ and potential implications for global security governance.” Could you explain in more details about these ‘systemic repercussions’ and how they preclude or endorse the formulation of the interregional security agenda?
Although efforts for strengthening global governance and multilateralism through interregionalism are still at the top of the agenda of many governments around the world, interregional dynamics will certainly be affected by current shifting power relationships among state and non-state actors. This redistribution and diffusion of both material and non-material power is generating new bilateral arrangements and new formal and informal alliances that will contribute to the decline of some interregional forums. Also, it is important to recognize that the in current international context, where we see the return of geopolitics and extreme nationalism, interregional cooperation will face strong challenges. Nevertheless, I believe that the growing interconnection of transnational security challenges will increase the need for coordination among different public and private actors to cope with common threats and challenges. Therefore, the requirement of multilateral governance institutions and multilateral solutions for regional, interregional and global security problems will not disappear.
However, it seems that in the near future most regional entities will not be EU-like arrangements. Therefore, we can expect group to group interactions taking different forms. Perhaps a more complex and diverse interregionalism, based on different forms of interregional cooperation, will be the foundation for new forms of global governance. And these different formats certainly will include different public and private stakeholders, acting at different moments and levels. Also, there is a high probability that interregional forums will maintain a role in the creation of regional cohesion and regional identity(ies), and will maintain its role as spaces for interaction, socialization and recognition for many actors.
Although the creation of a Euro-Latin American identity, or an Asian-Euro identity, or an Asian-Latin American identity, will not be possible given intra-regional and bi-regional differences, I believe these interregional relationships will still be relevant for the creation, diffusion, and adaptation of certain norms and practices at the regional and international system levels.
Regarding the impact of interregional security agendas in the efforts to confront global challenges, as some scholars have argued, these interregional agendas could facilitate a ‘division of labor’ in global security governance; and this may simplify and support the work of regional and sub-regional organizations that don’t have enough capabilities (both material and non-material) to cope with these challenges. Likewise, given the increasing transnational and multidimensional characteristics of most of the issues included in these interregional security agendas, the preparation of these agendas and their related actions could promote more dialogue and collaboration on security matters among different public and private stakeholders; not only inside each region, but across regions.
The establishment of interregional security agendas, however, also generates important questions on matters of coordination, effectiveness, legitimacy, subsidiarity, transparency and accountability. These matters should be properly addressed by the different actors involved.
A final aspect to be highlighted, is that interregionalism has not been free from power politics, and certainly the framing of different issues as ‘regional,’ ‘interregional’ or ‘global’ security challenges may be a vehicle for power projection by some of the most relevant actors in these interregional forums.
3) Regarding the methodological procedures, you mentioned that several issues were identified as “global security challenges,” but they were not included since they were not considered in any of the thirty-two documents reviewed. Bearing in mind that among these issues was the massive and uncontrolled migration flows, which is a source of today’s “European migration crisis,” why do you think that this germane topic was not underscored in any of the reviewed documents? Moreover, why some other apposite security topics, such as energy security (e.g., lack of energy supply), was not included as a category?
I believe this is a very important and interesting question. The framing of migration flows as ‘massive’ and ‘uncontrolled’ was not introduced in any of the thirty-two declarations or actions plans of the three interregional dialogues reviewed for this article. These documents cover more than twenty years of interregional activity, from 1997 to 2018, and it is quite interesting to notice that almost none of them identifies migration flows as an interregional or global security challenge. In the case of the EU-LAC dialogue, Latin American governments have defended an approach to international migration based on a multidimensional perspective, highlighting the positive impact of these flows in both directions, and emphasizing the link between migration and development.
It is also relevant to notice that the two interrelated matters of ‘human smuggling’ and ‘human trafficking’ have been important in the three interregional agendas; although they have received different treatment. More emphasis on these matters is detected in the ASEAN-EU and EU-LAC dialogues than in the dialogue between East Asian and LAC countries. The relative less emphasis of these matters in the Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC), however, cannot be related to these issues not being relevant for East Asia and LAC countries. Three preliminary and interrelated explanations can be offered. First, the rejection by several governments of East Asia and LAC to the criminalization of migration. Second, human mobility being regarded as a key element for economic development given the remittances which migrants send back to their countries of origin in Asia and Latin America. And, third, that perhaps some governments are seeking to avoid being scrutinized, by formal or informal external mechanisms, on their compliance with the human rights of migrant populations.
Regarding the issue of ‘energy security’, or secure energy supply, the reviewed documents from the three interregional forums indicate that this matter has been a relevant matter in the ASEAN-EU interregional dialogue, especially since the 2010s -although it has not always been included in declarations or action plans. Nevertheless, only in one of these documents the concept was framed as a security challenge or threat. The rest of the documents include ‘energy security’ either as part of economic cooperation and energy markets, or in relation to climate change and sustainable development. In the case of the FEALAC dialogue, the concept has only been used in two documents during the 2010s. In 2011, as part of a long list of ‘multifaceted and interconnected global problems and challenges,’ which also included issues such as financial crises, social exclusion, food and energy security, and nutrition matters, among others. The other moment was in 2017, when ‘energy security’ was considered in the section of development and environmental challenges, along with poverty, malnutrition, and challenges related to sustainable development.
In the case of the EU-LAC dialogue, the only time ‘energy security’ is mentioned was in a document from 2002. In this case the concept was included in the section of economic matters. Documents from the 2010s only indicate the need to improve energy efficiency and saving as well as accessibility and quality of energy supply. This unwillingness to frame ‘energy security’ as a common bi-regional challenge may indicate that energy producer countries do not want to see their natural resources being included as part of the security considerations of other regions, and to the reluctance of certain regional blocs to establish commitments on energy supply with other regions.
Read the article
Soriano, Juan Pablo. (2019). High expectations. Interregional agendas on global security challenges: East Asia, Europe and Latin America. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 62(1), e006. Epub May 23, 2019.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201900106
About the authors
Juan Pablo Soriano, Affiliated Lecturer at Facultat de Cièncias Políticas y Sociología, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tiago Tasca, editorial assistant of RBPI.
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